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- People who make a lot of money feel stressed about the amount of time they have to spend it, according to economist Daniel Hamermesh.
- Rich people have more incentive to work a lot, since they are sacrificing more dollars per hour by not working than low-earners.
- Even when they don’t work, high-earners feel pressure to spend their time on costly experiences.
- Low-earners feel less stressed about how they spend their time, but more stress about actually making money.
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Stress at work has an income divide.
High-earners work more because they feel rushed to make and spend money, while low-earners feel less stress over work, according to economist Daniel Hamermesh, who recently released his book "Spending Time: The Most Valuable Resource."
On average, Americans have more money than they had 50 years ago, Hamermesh argues, but they have the same 24 hours in a day to spend it all. Median household incomes have increased in the past 50 years (though real wages haven’t budged). The time we spend on things like sleeping, eating, and personal grooming haven’t changed substantially.
"Our incentives drives us to do things differently," Hamermesh said in an interview with Business Insider. "The amount of income we have, which differs substantially across people, leads us to spend the time differently as we have differently."
On top of the already scarce amount of time Americans have, the country works harder than every other developed nation. European countries like France and Germany have mandated paid vacation days. Even Japan, where people have died from working too much, created a new national holiday and encouraged companies to allow their employees leave early on Fridays.
The US, meanwhile, is the only developed country that does not have a federal paid vacation policy.
High-income earners have more options on how to spend their money compared with low-income earners — meaning when you have a lot of money, you’re "stressed" about how you’re going to spend it.
When they eventually do take time off, high-earners have so much money saved that they have an incentive to spend it on things that cost a lot of money per hour. Rich people today invest their money less in designer goods and more in luxury lifestyles, such as high-end gym memberships, multi-million dollar vacations, and exclusive hotels.
Therefore, high-earners get stressed because they feel like they don’t have enough time for the costly leisure activities they think like they need.
"We really can’t cut back on things too much," Hamermesh said. "While our incomes [keep] on going up, we feel more and more rushed."
On the flip side, low-income earners feel less rushed for time, as they don’t have the money to spend on luxury travel or other experiences. In his book, Hamermesh found low-earners spend more time watching TV and sleeping than high-earners.
While low-earners aren’t stressed about the time they have to either spend working or relaxing, they are stressed about their income. More and more people at the bottom 60% of income earners report feeling "stressed," and the stress gap between the rich and poor has widened in the past two decades.
"I’m not sympathetic with the rich guy who says how stressed he is. He could choose to work less, give away his income, and he wouldn’t be as rushed for time," Hamermesh said. "On the other hand, the low-income individual just isn’t living very well. To me, that’s much more important."
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